Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Campus groups debate democracy in Iraq

More than 50 students from across the political spectrum gathered at Kresge Centennial Hall on Wednesday night to debate the democratization of Iraq with members of Northwestern Opposing War and Racism as well as College Republicans.

With the club representatives at the front, students self-segregated, with NOWAR members on the left and the College Republicans sitting on the right. On the right side of the wall posters read: “Saddam is gone. You’re welcome.” Another: “Freedom isn’t free.”

The event was part of NOWAR’s 10K Inc. — Victims of U$ week of programs to raise awareness for the estimated 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the war.

“NOWAR is mourning the 10,000 deaths in Iraq,” said Nadir Hassan, a College Republicans debater and Daily columnist. “What they seem to be forgetting is the hundreds of thousands of deaths under Saddam.”

Though the conflict in Iraq has been difficult, Hassan argued America must remain active to prepare Iraq for an effective democracy.

“Under Saddam Hussein history class (in Iraq) was basically one massive orgy in favor of Saddam,” said Hassan, a Weinberg sophomore. “The U.S. has provided independent textbooks and set up new schools and technical universities. If the public is educated, they will make better choices in democratic elections.”

NOWAR debater Scott Gottbreht said Iraq is too unstable to have a free democracy but argued the United States got involved for the wrong reasons and should pass control to a U.N. coalition.

“The effort to return stability and bring democracy to Iraq has become more difficult, and even the progress that has been made can be easily reversed,” said Gottbreht, a Weinberg senior. “What began as a humanitarian effort to return democracy to Iraq has become a self-interested attempt to make profits for the U.S. and our allies.”

Both sides debated the strengths and weaknesses of U.S.- versus U.N.-led resconstruction, citing the United States’ efforts in Afghanistan and the United Nations’ work in Bosnia.

“Afghanistan is in incredible disarray right now,” said NOWAR debater Bret Harper. “If that’s their shining example of nation building, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

Hassan countered that although the United Nations is good at rebuilding infrastructure, Bosnia has experienced major political upheaval.

“The U.N. is good at building toilets, not constitutions,” Hassan said. “You’re right in saying the U.N. will be neutral. The U.N. will be neutral between democracy and terrorism, while the U.S. will support democracy.”

After the debate the audience split into two moderated groups to discuss and to debate with the speakers. Issues included the history of democracy in Muslim countries, Iraq’s role in the 2004 election and the Iraqi economy.

“I think the discussion was more important than the actual debate,” said NOWAR member Kyle Schafer, a McCormick freshman. “Everyone was pretty respectful and it didn’t turn into a shouting match or anything.”

Harper, a Weinberg senior, agreed, saying he was surprised how often he was able to compromise with College Republicans President Benjamin Kohlmann.

“I was really expecting a way more hostile Republican,” Harper said.

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Campus groups debate democracy in Iraq